DIRT 5 Review
Codemasters is back with a bang! Bringing us the next instalment in its long-running DIRT series DIRT 5.
DIRT 5 is a fun, amplified, off-road racing experience.Codemasters
DIRT 5 is an over the top arcade-style off-road racer, designed with fun and door-to-door action at the forefront of gameplay. Notice I didn’t say rally racer. Well, that’s because there aren’t any actual rally events. Unlike its sister title Dirt Rally, which focuses squarely on rally simulation, DIRT 5 has a greater emphasis on arcade-style off-road racing. In fact, it’s safe to say Codemasters have used DIRT 5 to draw a definitive line in the sand between the two.
DIRT 5, unlike its predecessor, now lacks any simulation-style handling options at all. Instead, you get to choose between Casual, Intermediate, and Advanced driving aids which toggle a combination of Anti-lock brakes, Traction Control, and Stability management.
Initially, having no simulated physics felt like a copout, but it does kinda makes sense when you look at the DIRT 5 and Dirt Rally series side by side. Codemasters taking this definitive step to separate the two franchises should mean future games deliver a more focused result. DIRT will feature more over-the-top arcade action while DIRT Rally will bring us beautifully simulated physics with realistic handling. At least that’s my hope!
This arcade-i-fiction of DIRT 5 flows through pretty much the entire game, stripping back some of the bloat that has weighed down the last few DIRT titles. Leaving us with the Jenny Craig version of Dirt – lighter, and with more energy.
Let’s start with the handling model because in an off-road title this is truly one of the most important things to get right, especially if you are targeting an arcade player base. Rally driving should feel fast and dangerous and the cars should be responsive and light.
For me, this isn’t always the case with DIRT 5. Handling feels oversimplified, to a point where I think I can sum it up in a sentence: left and right to steer, don’t accelerate while turning if you want to turn sharp and use the handbrake if you want to turn really sharp.
Truthfully, there is a little more to it than that. You do get occasional great driving moments, a big slide or neat handbrake turn for example. For me, the handling overall, feels sluggish, like a fat cat sliding across the polished floor.
Thankfully, the handling does vary when jumping between different surfaces and weather conditions. To add to this, the difference between front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and rear-wheel drive is noticeable and will force you to approach tracks differently.
One thing the DIRT series has always done well is providing the player with many varied environments and surface types and DIRT 5 is no exception – dirt, mud, snow, and rock, DIRT 5 has them all.
Gameplay – Career
The Career mode in DIRT 5 is a pretty straight forward affair. You start off as a rookie driver and work your way up the ladder towards the fame and fortune of a fully sponsored pro driver. There is no car tuning or upgrading, and cars are unlocked using your ‘Dirt Dollars’ which can be earned by winning races and completing various objectives.
The DIRT 5 Career is pretty forgiving and you don’t necessarily have to win each race to keep progressing through. Yes, millennials rejoice because in this game you are rewarded for just showing up to the race.
There is a heap of race modes to get through which for the most part help keep the very linear Career path somewhat entertaining. Gymkhana, Time Trial, Rally Raid, Ultra Cross, and Sprint events are all back. We also get Ice Breaker, Stampede, Landrush, and Path Finder. My personal favourite would have to be Stampede, some of those tracks are particularly fun and have huge shifts in elevation resulting in a course with fantastic depth.
The Career mode feels a little challenged and lacks any real motivation to keep players grinding.
Gameplay – Online
Unfortunately, for me, the online lobbies were fairly sparse and a bit of a lonely experience. When I did manage to find a full server, things ran smoothly and the racing came alive. As you would expect in a game that encourages bumper-to-bumper racing, there is plenty of contact between players online and as there is no real punishment for wall-riding. On some courses, it becomes a case of whoever can crash the fastest around a corner wins. As with the Career mode, Online mode also feels a little oversimplified and struggled to hold my interest for too long.
Gameplay – Playgrounds
Playgrounds is without a doubt the most exciting and interesting piece of the whole DIRT 5 experience.
Playgrounds is where the Dirt meets TrackMania in all the right ways. You get to create your own ridiculous tracks full of jumps, stunts, and drifts and then upload it for the community to enjoy.
I spent plenty of time in Playgrounds chasing seconds to climb the leader board.
It’s crazy, fun, challenging and infuriating all at the same time as you navigate around impossible corners, ridiculous jumps and through literal rings of fire.
DIRT has always been a good looking game, and DIRT 5 is no exception. In particular, the lighting and weather effects are truly beautiful. While it’s probably not going to win any prizes for innovation, it does manage to hit all the critical rally aesthetics of dust, mud, rain, and snow with effects serving up a true visual feast at times.
The environments felt a little hit and miss for me. As mentioned earlier, some of the Stampede races felt superb with dramatic changes in elevation, while some Sprint race events, among others, just felt generic and uninspired.
Audio and Soundtrack
A cracking soundtrack helps to keep the pace of the game alive and is a mix of rock, electronica, and indie anthems. There are some real classics in there as well, to keep the older folks interested.
The 3D setting for the music was a bit of fun. The music simulated as if its coming from various speakers around the race events getting louder as you approach grandstands or speaker stacks.
Overall the audio is a solid experience. Plenty of pops and crackles from cars, and you get a good sense of speed from the wash of stones or mud that crunches under the wheel or clatters of the under body.
James Pumphrey and Nolan Sykes from Donut Media do a great job of narrating the game and career progression and add some much needed humour to the game.
DIRT 5 Review
- GAMEPLAY - 73%73%
- GRAPHICS - 83%83%
- AUDIO - 84%84%
Dirt 5 draws a thick clear line between it and Codemasters‘ simulation title Dirt Rally. It’s a light approachable off-road racer that delivers door-to-door rally action. While Dirt 5 isn’t the innovative title I was hoping for it does deliver a solid enjoyable racing experience. While the Career mode feels a little flat, for the Playgrounds mode alone Dirt 5 is well worth a gander.
For more on the Dirt series check out our previous coverage.